army v navy 
Saturday 4th May 2024


Masters v Mariners continues long legacy

The Army Masters and Navy Mariners have as intense a rivalry as any of the other teams representing the red and blue, and it is fitting that Army Navy weekend 2024 kicks off with these two groups of players at the Richmond Athletic Ground on Friday, May 3 (KO 1800hrs).

The Masters and Mariners – along with the Royal Air Force Vultures – provide an extended pathway for players across the Services to continue their rugby, and both groups of management are united in acknowledging the wide range of benefits which everyone involved enjoys.

“The over 35 approach and ethos is key to retaining those who have often served for long periods and are now in more senior managerial roles with greater responsibilities and commitments, both on and off the field,” says Mariners Director of Rugby, Aidan Riley. “It also provides an opportunity for the re-invigoration of those who thought their playing days were over and for those who did not quite make the standard they had aspired to when younger.”

Army Masters Head Coach, Mark Eastley, agrees.

“Masters rugby allows individuals to compete at a competitive level, providing them a physical challenge and release from their normal daily duties,” he says. “Many of the players hold stressful and important positions, to which the Masters provides an opportunity for them to de-stress.

“With a rank range from Corporal to Lt Colonel across 13 different cap badges, the banter and off field and the conversations that develop are as important as the rugby. This allows senior individuals to ground themselves from their normal work life, and the junior individuals to understand larger complex issues.”

Anyone who was at Devonport Services RFC a fortnight ago saw in person the quality and skill on show as much as the dedication to the Service badge on the shirt. The Mariners needed three tries in the last 10 minutes to come back from a 25-13 deficit, and after tying things up going into injury time they put the ball through the hands to create a winning score for full back Paul Saberton.

“It’s always difficult when the Navy play the Army,” says Mariners Head Coach, Chris Thompson. “It’s the biggest game of the year. I feel that the win over the RAF has put us into the best possible state going into that game. The Army will be strong again but we can go into Richmond feeling confident. There will be nothing given to us, we’ll have to take it all, but if you’re going to play with the excitement of the finish we had in Devonport that gives us that impetus.”

Going into this weekend’s match neither of the coaches was under no illusion as to the challenge they would be facing at the Richmond Athletic Ground.

“The Mariners will confront us with a strong well organised pack as always,” says Eastley. “We look forward to the physicality and aggression that the game will create which will showcase Over 35s rugby for the aggressive, fast paced and skilled rugby that men of a certain age can still produce, followed by a light refreshment for rehydration post-match.”

The day at the Richmond Athletic Ground hosts a double-header on May 3, with UKAF’s Under-23s playing Harlequins Academy at 1600hrs. Entry is free into both games.

Tickets remain available for Army v Navy at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, May 4, via 

Pic: Pinnacle Photography

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